- On Monday, the Dakota Jackalopes activated C Tanner Brooks from the injured list. Shortly before the All-Star break, Brooks suffered an upper-body injury. Although the injury initially did not seem that serious, Brooks wound up missing over three weeks. As the Jackalopes had an available roster spot, they did not need to make a compensating move to activate Brooks.
- Also on Monday, the Hershey Bliss‘ CHL affiliate in Milwaukee placed LW Karl Gjovik on the injured list. Gjovik exited in the first period of Sunday’s 3-1 win over Cleveland after being upended on a devastating check, and did not return. He is expected to miss at least two weeks. To replace Gjovik, Milwaukee signed F Jerry Cazenovia to a short-term contract.
- On Wednesday, the Hamilton Pistols activated C Marco Venezio from the injured list. The veteran center missed 10 games with a lower=body injury suffered just before the All-Star break. In order to make room for Venezio, the Pistols reassigned C Hilliard Macy to their CHL affiliate in Oshawa, and released F Bobby Warner from Oshawa.
- Wednesday was the trading deadline. The following trades were consummated at the deadline:
- The Michigan Gray Wolves traded RW Gordon Lunsford to the Boston Badgers for RW Rory Socarra. (More details here.) After the trade, Boston demoted RW Felix Delorme to their CHL affiliate in Hartford, and recalled F Jacques Bacon from Hartford.
- The Gray Wolves traded LW Misha Petronov, F Cary Estabrook, and D Brandon Arrowood to the New York Night for LW Flynn Danner, F Henry Constantine, and D Anson Brank. (More details here.) After the trade, Michigan demoted LW Fendrick Scanlan to their CHL affiliate in Cleveland, and New York promoted RW Harris Wondolowski from their affiliate in Utah.
- The Dakota Jackalopes traded D Victor Addison to Boston in exchange for D Jackson Creed. After the trade, the Badgers demoted D Bjorn Tollefson to their minor-league affiliate in Hartford.
- Michigan traded C Warren Marlow to the Quebec Tigres in exchange for C Phil Miller, LW Carl Bleyer, and a 1st-round draft pick. (More details here.) After the trade, the Gray Wolves released F Caleb Moulton. The Tigres demoted C Dwight Flynn to their CHL affiliate in Halifax, and signed F Tim Daisey to a minor-league deal.
- On Saturday, the Anchorage Igloos recalled RW Jean Pierre Fleury from their CHL affiliate in Minnesota. The Igloos demoted Fleury to Minnesota during the All-Star break, and he played brilliantly there, recording 19 points in 12 games, including the CHL’s first-ever five-goal game. To make room for Fleury, the Igloos reassigned RW Lionel LaNeige to Minnesota.
For the Boston Badgers, it’s been a frustrating season. The Badgers spent a considerable amount of money in free agency, acquiring a passel of veterans in an effort to jump-start their growth from last year’s expansion beginnings. In the first quarter of the season, it appeared that their investments had paid off, as the team got off to a respectable start close to the .500 mark. After that point, though, Boston’s inexperience and lack of offensive firepower caught up with it. The team sank to the basement and stayed there; they’re on track to finish with a record only slightly better than last year.
As the Badgers’ record has sagged, so has locker-room morale. Sources close to the team describe a tense situation riven with factions, particularly between the older and younger players on the team. Coach Cam Prince has reportedly struggled to patch the divides on the team. And this week, the tension boiled over into a locker-room fracas that reportedly included actual fisticuffs.
The alleged donnybrook took place after Sunday’s 6-1 loss to the Hamilton Pistols. While the loss couldn’t be pinned on any one person, D Graham Bellinger had a particularly rough game, committing a couple of costly defensive-zone turnovers that led almost directly to Hamilton goals. In the quiet postgame locker-room, Bellinger was getting dressed and talking with a couple teammates about what nightclub to go later in the evening.
Bellinger’s breezy talk irritated D Bjorn Tollefson, once of the free-agent veteran that Boston signed in the offseason. Tollefson is a veteran of Ron Wright’s Michigan teams, and is known for his stern and businesslike demeanor. Tollefson walked over to Bellinger and barked, “Maybe instead of going to the club, you should go to the rink and practice the outlet pass.”
Bellinger’s head snapped up, and he replied, “What the [heck] are you talking about?”
Tollefson said, “You should get your head out of your [butt]. You party all the time, you cannot play defense, and you are a killer to the team.”
Bellinger stood up and snapped back, “Maybe you should quit riding my [butt] and mind your own business for a change. You’re a washed-up old [expletive]. All you do is complain, and I’m sick of your [crap].”
Tollefson shouted, “[Screw] you. Must I make you listen with my fists?”
Bellinger replied, “Go on, skin that smokewagon and see what happens, you fat [expletive]!”
Tollefson then lunged at Bellinger, and the two grappled and traded punches. After a minute or so, their teammates were able to separate them. Prince came out of his office, saw what was going on, then went back in his office and shut the door. The locker room remained closed to reporters for a half-hour after the scuffle, and neither Tollefson nor Bellinger was around by the time the press entered.
Both players, and Bellinger in particular, looked a bit banged up during the next day’s morning skate. Bellinger played in the next game. Tollefson sat out, in what was believed to be a team suspension.
The Badgers were tight-lipped about the incident. “What happens in the locker room, I don’t talk about that,” said Tollefson. “It is only inside the family.”
“It’s a long season, and stuff happens sometimes,” Bellinger said. “It’s over.”
“A lot of people think they know what happened in our room, but they don’t,” said Prince. “There’s a lot of bogus stories I’m hearing about this so-called ‘brawl.’ It’s ridiculous, is what it is. These are professional athletes. Tempers run high sometimes, but that’s it. Sorry, folks, nothing to see here.”
Boston’s season is almost over, so it seems likely that there will be few long-term ramifications from this incident. If anyone does pay for this, however, it’s likely to be Prince. If the Badgers front office decide that the coach is unable to improve the team’s problematic chemistry, they might decide a new bunch boss in order.
Unsurprisingly, Prince declined to discuss whether he expects to be fired. “I’m not even going to dignify that with a response,” the coach said in response to a question about his job status. “Shame on you for asking.”
In an unprecedented move, the SHL named the entire Michigan Gray Wolves‘ defense as its Players of the Week. “Up until now, we’ve always limited the Player of the Week honor to a single player,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell. “But we felt that Michigan’s defensive work needed to be recognized, and we couldn’t single out any one player for it, so we’re recognizing them all.”
The Wolves’ blueline corps – which includes “Mad Max” Madison, Fritz Kronstein (who won solo Player of the Week honors three weeks ago), Frank Mudrick, Brooks Zabielski, Sam Bergdorf, Bjorn Tollefson, Lyndon Bullock, and Cedric Berlinger – were in top form with the playoffs approaching. Michigan allowed only two goals in their four games this week, thanks in large part to the shot-suppressing ability of their defenders. The Wolves’ opponents averaged less than 16 shots this week. In Sunday’s showdown against Hamilton, a potential Finals opponent, Michigan held the high-flying Pistols to only 19 shots in a 3-0 win. Then in consecutive games against Dakota and Kansas City, the Wolves limited their opponents to 12 shots each, allowing them to edge the Jackalopes 1-0 and stop the Smoke 4-1.
“Our core identity is defense,” said Wolves coach Ron Wright. “And it says a lot about the group we have here that even though I’ve been rotating guys in and out this week, giving the starters a little rest, we haven’t missed a beat.”
WASHINGTON GALAXY 3, MICHIGAN GRAY WOLVES 2
The Washington Galaxy aren’t going quietly. Facing elimination in the SHL Finals, the Galaxy withstood an onslaught of shots from the Michigan Gray Wolves and struck in the final minute to steal a 3-2 win, living to fight another game.
“Not dead yet, boys!” crowed Washington coach Rodney Reagle after the game. “Just like the Bee Gees, we’re stayin’ alive!” The coach then proceeded to demonstrate his best disco moves.
The Wolves did their best to send the Galaxy packing. They came out firing from the start of the game, and wound up outshooting Washington 33-22. But Galaxy netminder Roger Orion stood tall amid the barrage, turning aside 31 shots and outdueling Michigan’s Dirk Lundquist.
“All series, we’ve been hearing about how, oh,Lundquist is so great, Lundquist is God,” said Washington RW Jefferson McNeely. “But you know what? Roger’s a damn good goalie too. He doesn’t get the headlines Lundquist does, but he can be just as clutch.”
Michigan actually drew first blood in this game, with RW Oskar Denison drilling one home just inside the left pipe late in the first period. “I was not expecting it to go in,” admitted Denison. “I was hoping to have a big rebound that someone could put in. I got lucky.”
Washington was able to get even early in the second. After Wolves D Bjorn Tollefson was penalized for high-sticking, Galaxy RW Sindri Pentti cashed in on the power play, going five-hole on Lundquist. Washington went into the locker room after two periods tied at 1, despite getting outshot 23-14. “We were pretty anxious between periods there,” said McNeely. “Yeah, it was tied, but [the Wolves] were really in the driver’s seat as far as puck control and zone time. We knew we needed to slow them down and break their rhythm.”
The Galaxy succeeded in disrupting Michigan’s offensive flow, narrowing the shot gap to 10-8 in the third period. A little more than five minutes into the third, Washington C Eddie Costello and LW Casey Thurman broke away on a two-on-one, with Thurman going top shelf to give the Galaxy their first lead of the game. The lead was fairly short-lived, as Wolves C Hunter Bailes deflected a shot past Orion a little more than four minutes later.
The latter half of the third period was frustrating for both teams, as neither side was able to generate much offensive action. “It kind of felt like we were both playing not to lose,” admitted Tollefson.
But with less than a minute left in the game, Thurman shoveled a sharp-angle shot past Lundquist, and the sellout crowd at Constellation Center exploded as Thurman did a celebratory belly-flop on the ice and his teammates banged their sticks against the boards.
“It was a tight game, and you knew the game-winner wouldn’t come easy,” said Thurman. “But I think the fact that it was do-or-die, that gave us that little extra edge we needed to get over the top.”
The good news for the Wolves is that they still have a 3-2 series lead, and the action shifts back to Cadillac Place, where they drubbed Washington twice by a combined 6-0 margin. But there’s also cause for Michigan to be anxious, as they’re missing a pair of key forwards, Vladimir Beruscko and Warren Marlow. In this game, the Wolves were forced to give ice time to Kimmo Eliasson, a street free agent who signed an emergency contract with the team at the start of the Finals.
Wolves coach Ron Wright said it’s no time to panic. “We’ve got to remember what got us here,” Wright told reporters. “We’re not a team that relies on any one star to succeed. We rise and fall as a team, and that’s how we’re going to win this.”